MEDIA PRAISE FOR FIJI HIGH COURT JUDGE SHAMEEM’S CONVICTION OF SPEIGHT

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 5, 2002 – Radio Australia)---A High Court judge, Justice Nazhat Shameem, has been praised by two of the country's Sunday newspapers, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Post, for convicting three supporters of May 19, 2000 coup leader George Speight of murder and jailing them for life.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that the Indo-Fijian judge over-ruled the decision of the three assessors assigned to help her with the case.

"Under Fiji's judicial system there are no juries, but in serious cases High Court judges are assisted by assessors.

However, they can be overruled.

"That's what happened in this case where the three assessors couldn't agree on a guilty verdict against three indigenous Fijian men alleged to have murdered two members of the security forces -- a soldier and a policeman -- in an ambush at Sawani in the Naitasiri district in August 2000.

"The ambush happened in the weeks following George Speight's arrest.

"Ms. Justice Nazhat Shameem overruled her assessors, saying the three men had been involved in careless and cold blooded murder.

"She jailed them for life.

"Fiji's Sunday Times said the country owed Judge Shameem a deep debt of gratitude, while the Sunday Post described her as wise and courageous.

"Sean Dorney, Radio Australia."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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